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What Forum Software should I use?

I need to assemble a GetSatisfaction/Lithium/Jive type support forum/community. The first is not available in the desired language and the last two are priced for the enterprise market. I did research some other options (open source or SaaS) but they all seem to be either:

  • kind of dead (open source options)
  • too focused in gathering ideas/feedback (uservoice)
  • strictly support without the community/voting features (zendesk)

I need an open forum (people powered support/UGC with community/voting features) & Facebook/Google/Yahoo/MSN account sign-in.

Therefore I will have to do some of the work on my own. I want to piece things (plugins/mods/etc) on top of a standard forum platform to give it the features I need. For this purpose, I want to use a mature product with widespread userbase, active community and lots of plugin options. I believe most will agree that my options therefore are:

  • vBulletin
  • phpBB
  • SMF

Here are the questions:

  1. Which one of the three above offers the easier path towards the desired goal?
  2. Which one of the three above has the most advanced features related to the desired goal?

Of course I dont expect anyone to know these answers cut and dry. I am hoping to hear some experiences and see some examples. Also, it would be great if both those questions had the same answer, but I am not going to get my hopes up...

PS: I wish I could add the tags "phpbb" and "smf" ;)

  • Have you looked into Drupal at all? – Xand0r Feb 14 '11 at 16:45
  • Thanks, I forgot to look into Drupal, but I know Joomla a buddypress would do a poor job at this task due to its limited forum functionalities. – Gaia Feb 14 '11 at 20:24

I know that vanilla forums isn't on your list of forums that you are considering, though you should try it. It has almost all of the features you need, including voting (enabled by this plugin). The only feature that I'm not sure if they support is msn sign-in, though they support open-id (yahoo supports open-id), facebook, and google sign-in.

I haven't used vBulletin, but it will be easier to make your forum do what you need it to do with vanilla than phpbb or smf (vanilla makes it more easier to install modifications than phpbb or smf). And vanilla forums is free, while you have to pay for vBulletin.


Based on my research, as far as forums go, vBulletin is further evolved in this aspect. Single sign-on for the most providers is available on vBulletin. The Rating/Karma plugins are also more evolved on vBulletin.

I want to thank XandOr for reminding me of Drupal because, at this time, that is indeed the most advanced social software I can build upon, even though it requires dozens of modules to get there.

The final straw for my decision was this comparison between vBulletin, Drupal (and others).

  • 1
    Just in case you're considering it a negative, you have to understand that "even though it requires dozens of modules to get there" is not a problem but part of Drupal's entire architectural philosophy. (Except that you're grossly exaggerating with "dozens") The core application only provides the minimum function, and then you add everything else yourself. It's why you can turn it into something like a forum, rather than most other applications where you get a blog(for example) that you can then wrestle into being a forum. – Su' May 22 '11 at 17:39

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